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Report Finds 400 Million Children Living in Extreme Poverty - World Bank (2013)

The number of people living in extreme poverty around the world has sharply declined over the past three decades, but in 2010 it still included roughly 400 million children, or one -third of those living in such abysmal conditions... The analysis found that more than three quarters, or 78 percent, of those living in extreme poverty lived in rural areas, with nearly two thirds of the extreme poor deriving their livelihoods from agriculture.

 

The extreme poor also continue to lag significantly behind in access to basic services, the analysis found. Only 26 percent of the poor had access to clean water in 2010, compared to 56 percent among those living above the $1.25 poverty line. Meanwhile, fewer than half... of the extreme poor had access to electricity, compared to 87 percent of the non-poor. And while 61 percent of those above the $1.25 poverty line had access to basic sanitation, just 20 percent of the extreme poor had access to similar services, the report showed.

 

“We need to act urgently, and with a sharpened focus, to implement effective policies in places where poverty remains entrenched, particularly rural areas,” said Jaime Saavedra, World Bank Acting Vice President of Poverty Reduction and Economic Management. “Children living in complete deprivation today are unlikely to benefit much from growth in the future, unless they secure access to adequate nutrition, education, and health services.  Accelerating the pace of poverty reduction in low income countries represents a moral imperative. There is no time for complacency.” 

 

http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2013/10/10/report-finds-400-million-children-living-extreme-poverty

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Zemus Koh's curator insight, January 27, 2014 9:47 AM

I scooped this article as I found it rather pleasing to see that the number of people living in extreme poverty is declining as compared to the number of people living in extreme poverty 3 decades ago. However, most ups has its downs as well. It is really saddening to hear that only just above 1 quarter of the poor have access to clean water, 30% below those above the $1.25 poverty line. In my opinion, I feel that it is very pleasing to know that these less fortunate people are not forgotten as the Vice President of Poverty Reduction and Economic Management are lending them a helping hand by implementing effective policies in places where poverty remains entrenched, rural areas in particular.

All in all, it pains me to see us, more fortunate people, taking this privilege for granted while out there, people are suffering and not having proper drinking water, food and a proper living enviroment.

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Rethinking the Measurement of Undernutrition in a Broader Health Context: Should We Look at Possible Causes or Actual Effects? - Stein (2014) - Global Food Security

Rethinking the Measurement of Undernutrition in a Broader Health Context: Should We Look at Possible Causes or Actual Effects? - Stein (2014) - Global Food Security | Food Policy | Scoop.it

When measuring food and nutrition security, focusing on proxy indicators such as food availability, or on selected head count figures such as stunting rates, gives an incomplete picture. Outcome-based global burden of disease (GBD) studies offer an alternative for monitoring the burden of chronic and hidden hunger. Judging by this measure, the international goal of halving global hunger between 1990 and 2015 has already been achieved.

 

Disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) that are used as metric in GBD studies can be converted into more easily understood monetary terms. The resulting estimate of the annual cost of global hunger of up to 1.9 trillion international dollars may be better suited to illustrate the magnitude of the remaining problem...

 

It is pertinent to recall why we are concerned about hunger and malnutrition: because of the negative consequences it has for people’s health and well-being. Food and nutrition insecurity is usually defined in terms of what determines hunger... However, to measure hunger... the outcome of food and nutrition insecurity, i.e. the burden of disease that is caused by hunger, should be used...

 

One challenge when trying to measure health outcomes of undernutrition is the multitude of adverse health consequences that can be attributed to hunger, in particular to micronutrient deficiencies... Therefore the question is whether health can be measured in a consistent way across such diverse outcomes. To make the burden imposed by different health outcomes comparable... the World Bank introduced the concept of disability-adjusted life years (DALYs)...

 

The WHO used DALYs to quantify the global burden of disease (GBD), for which it reported results at the country level and for a range of health outcomes. Based on these readily available data, DALYs can be used to quantify the global burden of hunger... A more recent GBD study... represents an improvement since it covers more causes and risk factors of poor nutrition... per year more than 160 million DALYs are lost due to hunger, which is more than 6 percent of the total burden of disease...

 

While... using DALYs to measure hunger is a better approach... one challenge for the use of DALYs is their abstractness: what exactly is a “disability-adjusted life year”? ... One way of illustrating the magnitude of the burden of hunger is to express it in money... While there are obvious problems with the monetization of social costs... it offers a coherent framework that permits conducting the kind of broad analyses and comparisons that are needed to guide policy making...

 

Using this approach produces an estimate for the global cost of hunger of Int$1.9 trillion per year, or 2.4 percent of world income. One indication that the global cost of hunger falls indeed into the trillion-dollar range is the estimate for the worldwide cost of undernutrition of US$1.4 trillion to US$2.1 trillion that the FAO gives... using a very different approach...

 

The “cost” of hunger is an opportunity cost, i.e. it provides an estimate for the additional annual national income that society foregoes by not solving undernutrition... One estimate of the costs that would have to be incurred to reach more than 80 percent of the world’s undernourished children with key nutrition interventions suggests this could be as (relatively) little as $10 billion a year, i.e. only one-hundredth of the current cost of hunger...

 

It is interesting to compare the estimate of the number of hungry people with that of the number of DALYs lost due to hunger over time. Judging by the FAO’s indicator, the achievement of MDG 1 is not very likely. However, if the objective was indeed more generally to “reduce hunger by half”, this has already been achieved – if hunger is measured using DALYs... in 1990 the burden of hunger was 320 million DALYs lost, but by 2010 this burden had already shrunk by half to 160 million DALYs lost...

 

The discrepancy in the assessment of the development of global hunger if based on food availability versus actual health outcomes might be surprising, but as... discussed above, food availability is but one determinant of (or input into) hunger, whereas DALYs measure the outcome of hunger that results from all inputs combined. In this case – in the presence of other, uncorrelated inputs into hunger that change over time – an indicator that monitors only one input is bound to show a different development than an indicator that measures the final outcome...

 

Not least in light of the discussion of the post-2015 development agenda... it is important that agreed-upon targets can be operationalized based on indicators that allow precise monitoring of progress… Stakeholders in food and nutrition security need to be aware of the advantages of outcome-based measures like DALYs... those working on GBD studies should pay more attention to undernutrition and to related health risks, and more frequent updates of the GBD or relevant subsets could further increase the usefulness of DALYs...

 

Using DALYs to quantify the burden of hunger has shown that the international efforts to improve global welfare are bearing fruit and that progress in the fight against undernutrition has been more rapid than is generally believed. Still, the problem of global hunger remains unresolved, and its magnitude becomes especially apparent when approximated in more familiar monetary terms. With more detailed, country-level DALYs data becoming available, further research can determine in which countries and for which nutrition-related health outcomes the biggest reductions in the burden of hunger have been achieved – and it can help explain why...

 

Original article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.gfs.2014.09.003

 

Audio-slides, 4 min.: http://audioslides.elsevier.com/ViewerSmall.aspx?doi=10.1016/j.gfs.2014.09.003

 

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Farm production, market access and dietary diversity in Malawi - Koppmair &al (2014) 

The association between farm production diversity and dietary diversity in rural smallholder households was recently analysed... The role of other factors that may influence dietary diversity, such as market access and agricultural technology, is also analysed. A survey of smallholder farm households was carried out in Malawi... 


Farm production diversity is positively associated with dietary diversity. However... access to markets for buying food and selling farm produce and use of chemical fertilizers are shown to be more important for dietary diversity than diverse farm production... 


Further increasing production diversity may not be the most effective strategy to improve diets in smallholder farm households. Improving access to markets, productivity-enhancing inputs and technologies seems to be more promising.


http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S1368980016002135


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Why Industrial Farms Are Good for the Environment - NYT (2016) 

Why Industrial Farms Are Good for the Environment - NYT (2016)  | Food Policy | Scoop.it
There is much to like about small, local farms and their influence on what we eat. But if we are to sustainably deal with problems presented by population growth and climate change, we need to look to the farmers who grow a majority of the country’s food and fiber. Large farmers… are responsible for 80 percent of the food sales in the United States, though they make up fewer than 8 percent of all farms… Their technology has helped make them far gentler on the environment than at any time in history. And a new wave of innovation makes them more sustainable still. 

A vast majority of the farms are family-owned. Very few, about 3 percent, are run by nonfamily corporations. Large farm owners (about 159,000) number fewer than the residents of a medium-size city… Their wares… fill the shelves at your local grocery store. 

There are legitimate fears about soil erosion, manure lagoons, animal welfare and nitrogen runoff at large farms – but it’s not just environmental groups that worry. Farmers are also concerned about fertilizer use and soil runoff. That’s one reason they’re turning to high-tech solutions like precision agriculture. Using location-specific information… new tools… can put fertilizer only on those areas of the field that need it… GPS signals drive many of today’s tractors, and new planters are allowing farmers to distribute seed varieties to diverse spots of a field to produce more food from each unit of land… 

Before “factory farming” became a pejorative, agricultural scholars of the mid-20th century were calling for farmers to do just that – become more factorylike and businesslike… It is precisely this large size that is often criticized today in the belief that large farms put profit ahead of soil and animal health. But increased size has advantages, especially better opportunities to invest in new technologies and to benefit from economies of scale. Buying a $400,000 combine that gives farmers detailed information on… different parts of the field would never pay on just five acres of land… 

These technologies reduce the use of water and fertilizer and harm to the environment. Modern seed varieties, some of which were brought about by biotechnology, have allowed farmers to convert to low- and no-till cropping systems, and can encourage the adoption of nitrogen-fixing cover crops… Herbicide-resistant crops let farmers control weeds without plowing… they enable no-till farming methods, which help prevent soil erosion. These practices are one reason soil erosion has declined more than 40 percent since the 1980s. 

Improvements in agricultural technologies and production practices have significantly lowered the use of energy and water, and greenhouse-gas emissions of food production per unit of output over time… Farmers increased production through innovation… In 1900, about 40 percent of the United States population was on the farm… Today… only about 1 percent… A result is that romantic, pastoral images of farming from yesteryear are far from representing reality. 

Big problems face farmers and consumers. Climate change, food waste, growing world population, drought and water quality are just a few. There are no easy answers, but innovation, entrepreneurship and technology have important roles to play. So, too, do the real-life large farmers who grow the bulk of our food. 


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The Implications of Agricultural Trade and Market Developments for Food Security - Tallard &al (2016) - OECD

Reducing hunger and undernourishment is a global priority and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have the ambitious target of eradicating hunger entirely by 2030… This paper provides projections on the availability of calories at the national level, for the number of persons undernourished, and for the proportion of undernourishment (PoU) that are consistent with the market projections… It also considers the impact on undernourishment of four alternative scenarios: faster income growth relative to the baseline in developing countries; stronger growth in agricultural productivity; a combination of a faster income growth with a stronger productivity growth; and finally a more equitable access to available food supplies. 


Under the baseline, the global PoU is projected to fall from 11% to 8% over ten years, with Latin America as a whole dipping under the 5% threshold at which the FAO considers hunger to be effectively eradicated. The PoU falls from 12% to 8% in Asia and the Pacific and from 23% to 19% in Sub-Saharan Africa… Higher income growth or more productive agriculture removes more people from the ranks of the undernourished, but in most cases, more equitable access to food leads to the biggest reductions. The analysis confirms that it is not lack of available food that is the fundamental problem, but rather effective access to that food. Trade plays an increasing role in ensuring national food availability for many countries… 


The biggest impacts on undernourishment come through a scenario which improved access to available calories through a more equal distribution of incomes… across national populations. Already, the world produces 50% more calories than needed to meet everyone’s minimum calorie requirement. A 10% reduction in the coefficient of variation in 2024 lowers the overall PoU by 2.1 percentage points… A combination of income growth, agricultural productivity gains, and reduced income inequality will keep most Asian countries on track to achieve the SDG of eliminating hunger. However, the PoU for Sub-Saharan Africa as a whole remains stubbornly high under all scenarios, and by 2024 the region will account for more than one third of the global total of undernourished. 


For the poorest African countries, much deeper transformations will be needed that raise the incomes of the poorest households and with it their access to food… Trade will play an important role in moving supplies from surplus to deficit countries. In most countries, the majority of additional consumption will be sourced from domestic markets. Overall there is a modest increase in the share of consumption imported for crop products, but larger increases are observed in some countries, including Bangladesh, China, Ethiopia, India, Mozambique and Viet Nam. The importance of trade to national food availability will be reinforced if overall income growth is the dominant source of increased calorie availability, and reduced if the main driver is domestic agricultural productivity growth. 


http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/5jlr579rkqwk-en


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From global to local, food insecurity is associated with contemporary armed conflicts - Koren & Bagozzi (2016) - Food Sec 

From global to local, food insecurity is associated with contemporary armed conflicts - Koren & Bagozzi (2016) - Food Sec  | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Scientists and practitioners… understood food security in terms of dietary energy availability and nutrient deficiencies, rather than in terms of food security’s… implications for social and political violence. The present study offers the first global evaluation of the effects of food insecurity on local conflict dynamics… 


Two agricultural output measures – a geographic area’s extent of cropland and a given agricultural location’s amount of cropland per capita – are used to respectively measure the access to and availability of food in a given region… Food insecurity measures are robustly associated with the occurrence of contemporary armed conflict. 


http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s12571-016-0610-x


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The U.S. Is Now Eating and Wasting Twice as Much Food as It Did in 1975 - Atlantic (2016) 

The U.S. Is Now Eating and Wasting Twice as Much Food as It Did in 1975 - Atlantic (2016)  | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Americans ate an average of 1,999 calories per day in 1975... we’re now up to 2,481. That increase has come with soaring rates of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, the fiscal cost of which is inordinate. The greater threat to our health as a population... may be the fact that the total U.S. food supply (the amount... produced and imported) is now 4,000 calories per person per day... This means that close to half of that food supply is going to waste. 


At the same time... the American population increased from 213 million to 319 million. So not only are we individually increasing in mass, but our numbers are soaring. The combined result is that over the past four decades, the amount of food being produced in order to feed the U.S. population (including what goes to waste) has nearly doubled. 


Agriculture is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions – not simply by ways of the methane emitted by cattle, but through the deforestation of land necessary to grow the feed for the animals, and the actual process of growing that feed. Barring a radical cultural shift away from such abundance or a re-conception of what we consider to be food, this growth does not seem to be environmentally sustainable in any humane way... 


http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2016/08/twice-as-much-food-as-1975/497939/


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Hunger games - Economist (2016) 

Hunger games - Economist (2016)  | Food Policy | Scoop.it

In Borno, the state worst-affected by Nigeria’s insurgency, Boko Haram, which is affiliated to Islamic State… camps for the internally displaced are teeming with bloated-bellied babies… The UN estimates that 240,000 children in Borno are suffering from severe acute malnutrition – the deadliest category of it. More than 130 will die each day without assistance. Across the wider north-east of Nigeria, a population equivalent to New Zealand’s is in need of food aid. In Abuja, the country’s sleepy capital, humanitarian co-ordinators compare the crisis to those of South Sudan and the Central African Republic. Unlike them, Nigeria cannot excuse itself as a failed state. It is Africa’s second-biggest economy. Things should never have got this bad. 


That they did is largely because of Boko Haram. The jihadists want to establish a caliphate in Nigeria: until early last year they occupied a territory the size of Belgium. But they are hopeless administrators, skilled only in violence. Rather than wooing neglected villagers, they pillaged food, stole cattle and poisoned water. Instead of using farmers to feed their fighters, they held them under lock and key… Mercifully, the insurgents have been pushed out of most big towns in the north-east over the past 18 months, though they still strike smaller villages, and camp out in the bush. 


Soldiers say that landmines litter farmers’ fields, making it dangerous to grow food. Borno is now entering its third season without a harvest. Where food is available, prices have soared… Those who can find supplies at all are the lucky ones… In other areas, the army is accused of exacerbating the food crisis by closing markets (which could be bomb targets) and blocking the passage of supplies (which could be destined for Boko Haram)… More culpable is the Nigerian government… International partners fume that it did not want Nigeria to be stereotyped as “another African conflict country”, and therefore denied that help was needed… 


Faced with an emergency which it can no longer deny, the government has at last grown more ready to accept help… But the worst is not yet over. The numbers needing aid will grow as new towns open up: there are perhaps 750,000 hungry people in the north-east who currently cannot be reached at all. Some aid agencies think that most insecure parts of Borno are now in full-blown famine, which would suggest that 30% of people there are acutely malnourished… 


http://www.economist.com/news/middle-east-and-africa/21706261-famine-looms-areas-devastated-boko-haram-hunger-games


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China’s honey bee losses are low compared with West - AlphaGalileo (2016) 

Since concern about widespread honey bee colony losses began ten years ago, there have been surveys carried out to assess winter losses in North America and many European countries. So far the picture in China, the largest beekeeping country in the world, has been unclear. Now for the first time, information about winter losses from a large-scale survey carried out from 2010-13 has been published… 

Colony losses were generally low (on average 10.1%), compared to published results from Europe and the USA… Reasons for the lower losses… may be due to a high genetic diversity in their honey bees, regular replacement of queen bees by the beekeepers, and because the average size of beekeeping operation is small, meaning that beekeepers can pay close attention to their hives, in particular to the way they control the parasitic varroa mite… 



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Global Analysis Says Human Impact on Environment has Slowed - WCS (2016) 

Global Analysis Says Human Impact on Environment has Slowed - WCS (2016)  | Food Policy | Scoop.it

The global impact of human activities on the natural environment is extensive, but those impacts are expanding at a slower rate than the rate of economic and population growth… The study finds that while the global population grew 23 percent and the global economy grew 153 percent between 1993 and 2009, the global human footprint grew only 9 percent. 


“Seeing that our impacts have expanded at a rate that is slower than the rate of economic and population growth is encouraging… it means we are becoming more efficient in how we use natural resources”… however… while environmental impacts may not be tracking the exact growth rate of economies, they are already frighteningly extensive… 


“Three quarters of the planet is now significantly altered and 97 percent of the most species-rich places on Earth have been seriously altered. There is little wonder there is a biodiversity crisis.” The co-authors also expected to see that countries with booming economies would all have expanding environmental impacts, but that wasn’t uniformly the case. 


“It is encouraging that countries with good governance structures and higher rates of urbanization actually grew economically while slightly shrinking their environmental impacts of land use and infrastructure. These results held even after we controlled for the effects of international trade, indicating these countries have managed in some small measure to decouple economic growth from environmental impacts.” 


“Sustainable development is a widely espoused goal, and our data demonstrates clear messages of how the world can get there… Concentrate people in towns and cities so their housing and infrastructure needs are not spread across the wider landscape, and promote honest governments that are capable of managing environmental impacts”…  


http://newsroom.wcs.org/News-Releases/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/9218/Global-Analysis-Says-Human-Impact-on-Environment-has-Slowed.aspx ;


Underlying article: http://www.nature.com/ncomms/2016/160823/ncomms12558/full/ncomms12558.html


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How important is economic growth for reducing undernourishment in developing countries? - Soriano & Garrido (2016) - Food Pol

How important is economic growth for reducing undernourishment in developing countries? - Soriano & Garrido (2016) - Food Pol | Food Policy | Scoop.it

There is intense debate in the literature about how important economic growth is for solving the problem of undernourishment… Results reveal that faster annual economic growth leads to larger annual improvements in undernourishment rates… 


Sustained economic growth has a greater positive impact on undernutrition than short-term economic growth… Investments in health, education and access to drinking water are also enabling factors for reducing undernourishment… 


Increased income growth can hasten the effects of food policies aimed at reducing undernourishment, but not to the extent that sustained growth and better access to health, education and drinking water can. 


http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.foodpol.2016.07.004


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How a new source of water is helping reduce conflict in the Middle East - Ensia (2016) 

How a new source of water is helping reduce conflict in the Middle East - Ensia (2016)  | Food Policy | Scoop.it
Ten miles south of Tel Aviv, I stand on a catwalk over two concrete reservoirs the size of football fields and watch water pour into them from a massive pipe emerging from the sand… The reservoirs beneath us contain several feet of sand through which the seawater filters before making its way to a vast metal hangar, where it is transformed into enough drinking water to supply 1.5 million people. We are standing above the new Sorek desalination plant, the largest reverse-osmosis desal facility in the world, and we are staring at Israel’s salvation. Just a few years ago, in the depths of its worst drought in at least 900 years, Israel was running out of water. Now it has a surplus. That remarkable turnaround was accomplished through national campaigns to conserve and reuse Israel’s meager water resources, but the biggest impact came from a new wave of desalination plants. 

Bar-Zeev… is an expert on biofouling, which has always been an Achilles’ heel of desalination and one of the reasons it has been considered a last resort. Desal works by pushing saltwater into membranes containing microscopic pores. The water gets through, while the larger salt molecules are left behind. But microorganisms in seawater quickly colonize the membranes and block the pores, and controlling them requires periodic costly and chemical-intensive cleaning. But Bar-Zeev and colleagues developed a chemical-free system using porous lava stone to capture the microorganisms before they reach the membranes. It’s just one of many breakthroughs in membrane technology that have made desalination much more efficient. Israel now gets 55 percent of its domestic water from desalination, and that has helped to turn one of the world’s driest countries into the unlikeliest of water giants… 

Bar-Zeev believes that Israel’s solutions can help its parched neighbors, too – and in the process, bring together old enemies in common cause… That water stress has been a major factor in the turmoil tearing apart the Middle East, but Bar-Zeev believes that Israel’s solutions can help its parched neighbors, too – and in the process, bring together old enemies in common cause. Bar-Zeev acknowledges that water will likely be a source of conflict in the Middle East in the future. “But I believe water can be a bridge, through joint ventures… And one of those ventures is desalination”… Water is driving the entire region to desperate acts. And that… was the tinder that burned Syria to the ground… Similar stories are playing out across the Middle East, where drought and agricultural collapse have produced a lost generation with no prospects and simmering resentments. Iran, Iraq and Jordan all face water catastrophes. Water is driving the entire region to desperate acts… 

Amazingly, Israel has more water than it needs. The turnaround started in 2007, when low-flow toilets and showerheads were installed nationwide and the national water authority built innovative water treatment systems that recapture 86 percent of the water that goes down the drain and use it for irrigation… But even with those measures, Israel still needed about 1.9 billion cubic meters… Enter desalination. The Ashkelon plant, in 2005, provided 127 million cubic meters of water. Hadera, in 2009, put out another 140 million cubic meters. And now Sorek, 150 million cubic meters. All told, desal plants can provide some 600 million cubic meters of water a year, and more are on the way… 

Desalination used to be an expensive energy hog, but the kind of advanced technologies being employed at Sorek have been a game changer. Water produced by desalination costs just a third of what it did in the 1990s. Sorek can produce a thousand liters of drinking water for 58 cents. Israeli households pay about US$30 a month for their water – similar to households in most U.S. cities, and far less than Las Vegas (US$47) or Los Angeles (US$58)…. 300 million people get water from desalination, and that number is quickly rising… Worldwide, the equivalent of six additional Sorek plants are coming online every year. The desalination era is here…   


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Fertilizer Access Grows Farmers, Food and Finance - IPS (2016) 

Fertilizer Access Grows Farmers, Food and Finance - IPS (2016)  | Food Policy | Scoop.it
Brightly coloured cans, bags of fertilizer and packets containing all types of seeds catch the eye upon entering Nancy Khorommbi’s agro dealer shop… But her seeds and fertilizers have not exactly been flying off the shelves… Her customers: smallholder farmers in… one of South Africa’s provinces hard hit by drought this year. The reason for the slow business is that smallholder farmers cannot access, let alone effectively use plant-nourishing fertilizers to improve their low productivity. 

“Some of the farmers who walk into my shop have never heard about fertilizers and those who have, do not know how to use them effectively,” Khorommbi… said on the sidelines of a training workshop… to teach smallholders farmers and agro dealers… about fertilizers… Fledging agro-dealer businesses are a critical link in the food production chain. Agro-dealers, who work at the village level, better understand and are more accessible to smallholder farmers, who in many cases rely on the often poorly resourced government extension service for information on improving productivity. 

“Smallholder farmers can make the change in food security through better production, one of whose key elements is fertilizer”… Noting the knowledge gap on fertilizers, the African Fertilizer and Agribusiness Partnership (AFAP), supported by the… FAO and private sector partners… trained over 100 agro-dealers in the Province. The project promotes the development of the agro dealer hub model, where established commercial agro dealers service smaller agro dealers and agents in the rural areas, who in turn better serve smallholder farmers by putting agricultural inputs within easy reach and at reasonable cost. The AFVP aims to attract the private sector in South Africa – a net fertilizer importer – to developing the SMEs sector in the fertilizer value chain focusing on smallholder farmers and agro dealers. 

Smallholder farmers hold the key to feeding Africa, including South Africa, but their productivity is stymied by poor access to inputs and even effective markets for their produce, an issue the FAO believes private and public sector partnerships can solve… “By using more fertilisers correctly, South Africa’s smallholder farmers can grow more and nutritious food, achieve household food security, create jobs, increase incomes and boost rural development… To grow and support SMEs in Africa is the pathway if we are to reduce hunger and poverty. The future of South Africa is about growing those rural enterprises that will support smallholder farmers and employment creation.” 

In 2006, African Heads of State and Government signed the Abuja Declaration at a Fertilizer Summit in Nigeria committing to increase the use of fertilizer in Africa from the then-average 8kg per hectare to 50kg per hectare by 2015 to boost productivity. Ten years later, only a few countries have attained this goal… For every kilogram of nutrients smallholder farmers apply to their soils, they can realize up to 30kg in additional products… Smallholder farmers in South Africa in general do not apply optimum levels of fertilizers owing to high cost, poor access and low awareness about the benefits of providing nutrition for the soil… 

Smallholder farmers have structural difficulties in getting much needed fertilizers, a critical input in raising crop yields and providing business and employment creation opportunities for agro dealers. “Commercial farmers are successful because they have access to inputs such as fertilizers and knowledge and it does not mean smallholder farmers are having challenges because they do not know how to farm but the biggest issue is knowledge and access to affordable inputs”… 

The South African government is promoting SME development and growth of smallholder farmers who are key to tackling food insecurity at household level. Despite their high contribution to economic growth and job creation, SME’s are challenged by among other factors, funding and access to finance… Lack of finance is a major reason for SMEs – which contribute 45 percent to South Africa’s GDP – leaving a business, in addition to the poor management skills which are a result of lack of adequate training and education… 

Innovation from farm to market was one solution to turning the sector – employing half of the continent’s population – into a thriving business. “African farmers need better tools to avoid disasters and grow a surplus – things like seeds that can tolerate droughts, floods, pests, and disease, affordable fertilizer that includes the right mix of nutrients to replenish the soil”… Farmers need to be connected to markets where they can buy inputs, sell their surplus and earn a profit and for them to reinvest in into the farm. That in turn provides on and off the farm employment opportunities and supports a range of local agribusinesses. 


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1 in 3 Filipino kids still malnourished, stunted - Rappler (2016) 

1 in 3 Filipino kids still malnourished, stunted - Rappler (2016)  | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Poor nutrition remains a major problem in the Philippines with 3.4 million children found to be stunted and over 300,000 underweight – all under 5 years old... These figures are alarming, given the growing economy of the Philippines... 


"A relatively modest increase in GDP per capita could – or should – significantly improve... social progress indicators"... But the Philippines, the 9th among the countries with the highest prevalence of stunted kids, has had slow progress in addressing the issue.

From a prevalence rate of 38% in 1998, the decrease has not been consistent, only reaching 30% in 2013 based on the estimates of UN agencies... Based on Food Nutrition and Research Institute (FNRI) data as of 2015, stunting or the chronic malnutrition rate among children is now at 33.4%.

Lower-income countries like Vietnam and Cambodia are even faring better than the Philippines. Only 23% of children are stunted in Vietnam... The Philippines' disturbing figures... are expected to shoot up by 2030 if government does not boost support for social services... 


http://www.rappler.com/move-ph/issues/hunger/141134-philippines-children-malnutrition-stunting-study ;


Underlying report: http://www.iris-france.org/notes/socio-economy-of-chronic-malnutrition-in-the-philippines-a-preliminary-key-trends-analysis-by-2030/



Alexander J. Stein's insight:
So much about the arguments of some activists that no crop breeding efforts are needed because malnutrition is falling on its own or because of other interventions. Perhaps it's falling, and perhaps different interventions work, but too many children are still malnourished. 
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Climate change could destroy wild relatives of cereals by 2070 - New Sci (2016) 

Climate change could destroy wild relatives of cereals by 2070 - New Sci (2016)  | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Global warming could rapidly threaten grasses, including wild relatives of staple foods such as wheat and rice that provide half of all the calories consumed by humans. A new study looking ahead to 2070 found that climate change was occurring thousands of times faster than the ability of wild grasses to adapt. This doesn’t directly threaten food crops, but wild relatives provide a source of genetic diversity… 


The new research looked at the ability of 236 grass species to adapt to new climatic niches – the local environments on which they depend for survival. Faced with rapid climate change, species wedded to a particular niche can survive if they move to another region… or evolve to fit in with their altered surroundings… The predicted rate of climate change was typically 5,000 times faster than the estimated speed at which grasses could adapt… 


Moving to more favourable geographical locations is not an option for a lot of grass species because of limits to their seed dispersal and obstacles such as mountains or human settlements. “We show that past rates of climatic niche change in grasses are much slower than rates of future projected climate change, suggesting that extinctions might occur in many species and/or local populations… This has several troubling implications, for both global biodiversity and human welfare.” 


https://www.newscientist.com/article/2107252-climate-change-could-destroy-wild-relatives-of-cereals-by-2070/


Underlying article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsbl.2016.0368


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The Best News You Don’t Know - NYT (2016) 

The Best News You Don’t Know - NYT (2016)  | Food Policy | Scoop.it

The world is a mess, with billions of people locked in inescapable cycles of war, famine and poverty, with more children than ever perishing from hunger, disease and violence. That’s about the only thing Americans agree on… Fortunately, the one point Americans agree on is dead wrong… 


All the evidence suggests that we are at an inflection point for the ages. The number of people living in extreme poverty has tumbled by half in two decades, and the number of small children dying has dropped by a similar proportion – that’s six million lives a year saved by vaccines, breast-feeding promotion, pneumonia medicine and diarrhea treatments! 


Historians may conclude that the most important thing going on in the world in the early 21st century was a stunning decline in human suffering… As recently as 1981… 44 percent of the world’s population lived in extreme poverty… Now the share is believed to be less than 10 percent and falling… For the entire history of the human species until the 1960s, a majority of adults were illiterate. Now 85 percent of adults worldwide are literate and the share is rising… Internationally, inequality is on the decline because of gains by the poor in places like China and India. 


The U.N. aims to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030, and experts believe it is possible to get quite close. In short, on our watch, we have a decent chance of virtually wiping out ills that have plagued humanity for thousands of generations, from illiteracy to the most devastating kind of hand-to-mouth poverty. Yet the public thinks the opposite, that poverty is getting worse… But it’s… important to acknowledge the backdrop of global progress. Otherwise, the public may perceive poverty as hopeless and see no point in carrying on the fight – at just the point when we’re making the most rapid gains ever recorded… 


Cynics scoff that if more children’s lives are saved, they will just grow up to have more babies and cause new famines and cycles of poverty. Not so! In fact, when parents are assured that their children will survive, they choose to have fewer of them. As girls are educated and contraception becomes available, birthrates tumble – just as they did in the West… 


So in a moment we can return to urgent needs worldwide, from war to climate change to refugees. But first, let’s pause for a nanosecond of silence to acknowledge the greatest gains in human well-being in the history of our species – not to inspire complacency, but rather to spur our efforts to accelerate what may be the most important trend in the world today. 


http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/22/opinion/the-best-news-you-dont-know.html


Alexander J. Stein's insight:
... a bit of a clickbait headline, though... 
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Edible crickets can be reared on weeds and cassava plant tops - SLU (2016) 

Edible crickets can be reared on weeds and cassava plant tops - SLU (2016)  | Food Policy | Scoop.it

To become a sustainable alternative to meat, reared crickets must be fed feeds other than the chicken feed that is most commonly used today... there are weeds and agricultural by-products that actually work as single ingredients in feeds for crickets. The study was conducted in Cambodia, where many children suffer from malnutrition and where the need for cheap protein is large. 


"Since there are both climate and environmental benefits of eating insects, we believe that this habit will become more common, also in Western countries. What our study shows is that it is possible to rear crickets on feeds that don't compete with other kinds of food production"... Reared insects are increasingly seen as an environmentally friendly alternative to meat, even by the United Nations... 


In the Western world there is a cultural reluctance to eating insects, but also a cautious curiosity, and there is an increasing interest among scientists. In other parts of the world, such as Asia, there is a tradition to eat insects, and some species are regarded as delicacies. Many insects also seem to have a high nutritional value. So far, people mainly catch wild insects, but rearing them is emerging as a way to meet the growing demand.

Crickets are prized as food and they also seem to be quite easy to rear. Today crickets are usually reared on chicken feed, and this production has limited environmental benefits compared to chicken production, since crickets and chickens grow equally well on this feed. Also, this feed is too expensive for poor people, and its nutritional value is so high that people could just as well eat it themselves.

To be a climate and environmentally smart food, crickets have to be reared on feeds that have little value in other kinds of agricultural production, such as residues or weeds, and they must be cheap enough for poor people. Scientists know that many cricket species can feed on "a little of everything" but very few attempts have been made to rear crickets on residues, and none using weeds...  

There are weeds and residues that perform as well as chicken feed for the Cambodian field cricket... A number of Cambodian weeds and various residues from agricultural and other food production were tested in the study. Today these commodities are available for free or nearly free, which means that even very poor people would be able to rear crickets, at least to cover their own family's needs. The best ingredients were cassava tops and the weed Cleome rutidosperma, both of which could be used as a single ingredient cricket feed. 


http://www.slu.se/en/ew-news/2016/9/edible-crickets-can-be-reared-on-weeds-and-cassava-plant-tops/


Underlying article: http://dx.doi.org/10.3920/JIFF2016.0028


Alexander J. Stein's insight:
"Crickets are usually reared on chicken feed... this feed is too expensive for poor people, and its nutritional value is so high that people could just as well eat it themselves." 
>> Exactly the problem of meat, even of poultry: In general it's a very resource-intensive, inefficient, and therefore unsustainable way of feeding an ever growing global population.  

"There are weeds and residues that perform as well as chicken feed for the Cambodian field cricket... Today these commodities are available for free or nearly free, which means that even very poor people would be able to rear crickets, at least to cover their own family's needs." 
>> Obviously no economists were involved in the study -- one cannot assume any market to remain stable when offer or demand of a commodity changes: Today nobody has any use for these weeds and residues, i.e. there is no demand and therefore they are free (and because they are not marketable, they are not really "commodities" in the first place). However, if tomorrow only a fraction of Cambodia's 15m people want to raise crickets on weeds and residues, there will be a huge demand for these commodities (i.e. they will become real commodities that satisfy a need), a market will emerge (where people who have weeds and residues but who do not like crickets or have no time to raise them, will offer their weeds and residues for sale, and where millions of other Cambodians will want to buy them), prices will rise, and the poor may no longer be able to afford this new cricket feed, either. (On the other hand, a rising offer of "protein" on the market will drive prices down, which will also benefit the poor.) 
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Climate change means land use will need to change to keep up with global food demand - U Birmingham (2016) 

Climate change means land use will need to change to keep up with global food demand - U Birmingham (2016)  | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Without significant improvements in technology, global crop yields are likely to fall in the areas currently used for production of the world’s three major cereal crops, forcing production to move to new areas. With a worldwide population projected to top nine billion in the next 30 years, the amount of food produced globally will need to double… Much of the land currently used to grow wheat, maize and rice is vulnerable to the effects of climate change. This could lead to a major drop in productivity of these areas by 2050, along with a corresponding increase in potential productivity of many previously-unused areas, pointing to a major shift in the map of global food production. 


The study… uses a new approach… to predict how the potential productivity of cropland is likely to change over the next 50-100 years as a result of climate change. The results show that: Nearly half of all maize produced in the world (43%), and a third of all wheat and rice (33% and 37% respectively), is grown in areas vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Croplands in tropical areas, including Sub-Saharan Africa, South America and the Eastern US, are likely to experience the most drastic reductions in their potential to grow these crops. Croplands in temperate areas, including western and central Russia and central Canada, are likely to experience an increase in yield potential, leading to many new opportunities for agriculture… 


Efforts to increase food production usually focus on closing the yield gap, i.e. minimising the difference between what could potentially be grown on a given area of land and what is actually harvested. Highly-developed countries already have a very small yield gap, so the negative effects of climate change on potential yield are likely to be felt more acutely in these areas. ‘Our model shows that on many areas of land currently used to grow crops, the potential to improve yields is greatly decreased as a result of the effects of climate change… But it raises an interesting opportunity for some countries in temperate areas, where the suitability of climate to grow these major crops is likely to increase over the same time period.’ 


The political, social and cultural effects of these major changes to the distribution of global cropland would be profound, as currently productive regions become net importers and vice versa. ‘Of course, climate is just one factor when looking at the future of global agricultural practices… Local factors such as soil quality and water availability also have a very important effect on crop yields in real terms. But production of the world’s three major cereal crops needs to keep up with demand, and if we can’t do that by making our existing land more efficient, then the only other option is to increase the amount of land that we use.’ 


http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ncomms12608


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Plating up solutions - Garnett (2016) - Science 

Plating up solutions - Garnett (2016) - Science  | Food Policy | Scoop.it

The food system… is responsible for ∼25% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. It also drives deforestation and biodiversity loss, land degradation, water overuse, and pollution, and creates and perpetuates inequalities within and across societies. And it does not even feed us effectively: While obesity and diet-related noncommunicable diseases escalate, hunger and micronutrient deficiencies persist. As the global population grows, becomes wealthier, and demands more resource-intensive foods, these problems are likely to worsen… 


So far, policy-makers have mostly adopted a production-based approach to these interconnected challenges, focusing on technologies and strategies that increase food output in ways that do less environmental damage. Cleaner production techniques are clearly essential. But by itself, this “more food with less impact” approach cannot deliver on the deep cuts in emissions needed… Nor does it address the systemic imbalances that cause food insecurity, rising obesity and noncommunicable diseases, and high levels of food waste. 


To address these imbalances, policy-makers must also consider the driver of production: human eating patterns. Scientists are now starting to explore these drivers… Almost all researchers who study sustainable healthy diets highlight the high environmental impacts of meat and dairy consumption and the complex associations between high meat intakes and poor health outcomes… The typical Western eating patterns that are growing in prevalence across the world have high environmental impacts and damage health. 


These “lose-lose” diets are the point of departure when considering the merits of alternatives. Diets containing fewer or no animal products generally emit fewer GHGs than the high-meat Western norm: On average, the lower the animal component, the lower the GHG emissions…Conclusions on water impacts are less clear because fruits and vegetables can require high levels of irrigation. Reducing overall energy intakes in line with dietary recommendations also reduces impacts overall. 


“Win-win” diets that are less land-, water-, and GHG-intensive than the Western default and that broadly adhere to nutritional guidelines can be identified… reduced meat intakes need to be compensated for with increases in the quantity and diversity of whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables… Healthy diets may have high environmental impacts if rich in dairy, lean meats, and fresh produce grown under protected conditions or transported by air… 


Work on sustainable diets does not generally account for differences in production systems. These vary hugely, such as between industrial feedlot beef and sub-Saharan pastoral cattle herds, and have very different impacts. Food processing affects both environmental and nutritional impacts of a given food… Future innovations in production and processing methods could alter the environment-health relationship… Studies largely focus on only a few environmental aspects… Impacts on biodiversity are a notable gap… 


This reliance on just one or a few indicators of sustainability matters because the metrics used influence the conclusions drawn. For example, poultry has much lower GHG emissions than beef. However, poultry production relies heavily on feeding cereals that could potentially be consumed directly by humans. This is also true of ruminants… In certain limited contexts, and provided that they are well managed, grazing animals can also help maintain biodiversity in grasslands… 


A full definition of sustainability would include broader societal concerns, encompassing livelihoods, affordability, animal welfare, and non-nutritional health issues. There will inevitably be trade-offs. For example, livestock intensification may lower GHG emissions per kilogram of meat or milk output but raise animal welfare concerns, increase antibiotics use, or cause local job losses. Additionally, many social and economic objectives are difficult to agree upon and measure… 


It is in this arena of values that questions about effecting change become most contested. We know little about how to move eating patterns in healthier, let alone more sustainable, directions, except that education and awareness-raising alone achieve little. This ignorance reflects the chronic privileging of the natural and physical over the social sciences and policy reluctance to interfere with the market, risk votes, or displease powerful corporations. 


But if… we cannot address our environmental problems without altering diets, we need a research program that encompasses more structural approaches to exploring what mix of regulatory and economic measures, industry actions, and education programs could be effective and acceptable, and at which scales… Policy-makers must also be willing to test promising approaches where evidence is scarce; experimentation builds evidence… 


Interventions will also affect population subgroups differently. For example, a meat tax could potentially incentivize a switch to fish, with environmental problems swapped rather than eliminated; to refined, nutritionally poor carbohydrates; to cheaper processed, less healthy meat, resulting in no environmental gain and worse health; or to meat with lower animal-welfare credentials… 


Values frame and inform which issues or options are considered or ignored, which sustainability dimensions prioritized, which interventions considered researchable and fundable, and whose voice counts. These questions go beyond the natural sciences. But since food is entangled in almost every aspect of our lives, understanding how sustainable food systems and diets look and how to achieve them will require deeper collaborations across disciplines and beyond academic boundaries. 


http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.aah4765


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Closing yield gaps in China by empowering smallholder farmers - Zhang &al (2016) - Nature

Closing yield gaps in China by empowering smallholder farmers - Zhang &al (2016) - Nature | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Sustainably feeding the world’s growing population is a challenge and closing yield gaps (that is, differences between farmers’ yields and what are attainable for a given region) is a vital strategy to address this challenge. The magnitude of yield gaps is particularly large in developing countries where smallholder farming dominates the agricultural landscape. Many factors and constraints interact to limit yields, and progress in problem-solving to bring about changes at the ground level is rare. 


Here we present an innovative approach for enabling smallholders to achieve yield and economic gains sustainably via the Science and Technology Backyard (STB) platform. STB involves agricultural scientists living in villages among farmers, advancing participatory innovation and technology transfer, and garnering public and private support. We identified multifaceted yield-limiting factors involving agronomic, infrastructural, and socio-economic conditions. When these limitations and farmers’ concerns were addressed, the farmers adopted recommended management practices, thereby improving production outcomes. In one region in China, the five-year average yield increased from 68% of the attainable level to 97% among 71 leading farmers, and from 63% to 80% countywide (93,074 households); this was accompanied by resource and economic benefits. 


http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature19368


A collaboration worth its weight in grain 


A defining challenge of our time is to feed an increasingly populated, urban and affluent planet while minimizing the loss of diverse and crucial ecosystems. The focus of attempts to increase global food production has therefore turned to closing yield gaps… Zhang et al. tackle this challenge at the ground level, working closely with small-scale farmers in rural China to increase crop yields in practical and locally appropriate ways. Their work raises the question: what exactly does it mean to talk about yield gaps on a local scale? 


On a global scale, yield gaps are viewed as a function of a relatively small set of factors. One study estimated that climate, fertilizer application and water-irrigation techniques explain 60-80% of the variation in yield for major crops, and that closing gaps to meet attainable yields would increase global production of key crops by 45-70%. At the local scale, on-farm productivity depends on these factors, as well as on management practices such as sowing date and planting density, and on socio-economic aspects such as labour availability and market access. On the ground, the conversation about yield gaps leaves the conceptual realm of productivity in optimal conditions, and turns to the adoption of agricultural technology and the design of interventions to remove constraints on productivity. This is the scale at which Zhang and colleagues offer their contribution: the results of a project designed to improve actual yields on actual farms… 


The project team… identified management practices associated with lower yields on farms, including choice of crop variety, planting density and timing, and management of soil tillage and water irrigation infrastructure. Project staff worked with farmers to redesign cultivation recommendations to meet local needs, and to implement techniques designed to surmount yield constraints… Combined maize and wheat yields in the fields of lead farmers – skilled farmers who worked closely with the researchers – increased from 68% to 97% of attainable levels... When viewed through the lens of closing yield gaps, this is a remarkable achievement. But questions arise about whether that is the most useful way to frame this work, and how this local-scale technology-transfer project is linked to global food-production goals. Is this story really about yield gaps, and should it be? … Focusing on yield can expose farmers to increased risk of crop failure or food insecurity. Farming is a risky business, and farmers might need to minimize variability across their entire operation, or they could prioritize income from off-farm employment as a primary strategy to achieve household food security… Yield-gap assessment must be accompanied by analyses of markets, policies and other institutional factors. 


This project clearly provides a well-received and effective set of tools for improving farm management… However, some of the other outcomes… might be more valuable than crop yields as indicators of the project’s success. For example, compared with farmers in control villages, those involved with the programme… displayed substantially better agricultural knowledge and achieved higher nutrient and water-use efficiencies, indicating increased access to appropriate information and technology. The creation of pathways for communication between farmers, farming educators, and researchers is crucial to the success of small farms. Successful participatory interventions can boost yields, but they also allow farmers to make more-informed decisions about trade-offs, risks and livelihood strategies… If the goal of closing yield gaps can be used to improve the transfer of information and technology to farmers… that might be enough.  


http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature19431


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A growing problem, child malnutrition costs Philippines $7billion in a year - Reuters (2016) 

A growing problem, child malnutrition costs Philippines $7billion in a year - Reuters (2016)  | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Child malnutrition cost the Philippines $7 billion or nearly 3 percent of its GDP in one year in terms of education spending and lost productivity, while hunger-related stunting is on the rise among children… A report by Save the Children found that the combined losses, calculated with data from 2013, are more than triple the cost of damage inflicted by 15 natural disasters that hit the Southeast Asian country last year. "Stunting costs are a drag on the economy and impacts all of us, not just the child and the family. It keeps the Filipino economy poorer by 3 percent. If you add that up over time – it's an anchor to progress"… 


Stunting is defined as low height-for-age and is measured by comparing the height of a child against the international benchmark for a child of the same age. Caused by a poor diet in a child's first 1,000 days of life, stunting has severe, irreversible consequences on physical health and cognitive functioning… After 25 years of steady improvement, the prevalence of stunting among Filipino children under five increased to 33 percent in 2015 from 30 percent in 2013. 


"That's a 10 percent increase in a two-year period, so that is devastating. We're going in the wrong direction,… Even though you have an economy that's humming along at 6 to 7 percent a year, you have an increase in poverty from 24 to 25 percent of all families, and you haven't addressed the issue of access to food"… Of the estimated 49,000 students who had to repeat a grade level in school, 15 percent repeated as a result of under-five stunting. It estimated that $27 million was required to cover the costs of grade repetitions for these stunted children… 


Meanwhile, urban poverty and hunger are worsening… Save the Children… this year started providing emergency food therapy for "starving, skeletal children" in urban areas. Save the Children called for more investment in nutrition programs for pregnant and lactating mothers and babies in their first 1,000 days… also urged the government to address issues such as water and sanitation, agriculture, education and investment in overall productivity. "Malnutrition is seen as disease burden to be handled by the department of health. We know that doesn't work"…


http://www.reuters.com/article/us-philippines-economy-malnutrition-idUSKCN1151FE


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Chew on this: How we believe our meat is raised can influence how it tastes - Northeastern U (2016) 

Chew on this: How we believe our meat is raised can influence how it tastes - Northeastern U (2016)  | Food Policy | Scoop.it
Our beliefs about how farm animals are raised can shape our meat-eating experience… For the study, Barrett and co-author… Anderson… paired identical meat samples with different descriptions and then reported on participants’ eating experiences. They found that meat samples paired with descriptions of animals raised on factory farms looked, smelled, and tasted less pleasant to study participants than meat samples paired with descriptions of animals raised on humane farms. Participants’ beliefs also influenced their perceived flavor of the meat and the amount of meat they consumed, suggesting that beliefs can actually influence eating behavior. 

Barrett and Anderson hypothesized that believing meat came from animals that suffered would reduce the pleasantness of the eating experience as well as product consumption… “beliefs that meat came from animals that suffered would be represented, in part, in regions of the brain that are associated with embodied simulation of animals’ experience.” To test their hypothesis, the researchers designed three different experiments… finding… that the humane farm description did not increase liking, but rather that the factory farm description reduced liking. 



Alexander J. Stein's insight:
... there is a reason why many animal food products have (clearly deceptive) images on them that seem to have been taken on Old MacDonald's farm – of course people don't want to be reminded that their 5 minutes of cheap pleasure are only possible because of the lifelong suffering of other beings... (At least they lose their appetite when reminded of reality.) 
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Biofortification’s altruistic global goal - Farm Weekly (2016) 

Biofortification’s altruistic global goal - Farm Weekly (2016)  | Food Policy | Scoop.it

World Food Prize winner Dr Howarth “Howdy” Bouis is on a mission to curtail global hunger and poverty by increasing the nutritional… and health potential of staple food crops like corn, wheat and rice, through biofortification. Dr Bouis is founder and director of the Washington DC based HarvestPlus, which has been pushing biofortified crop development in regions like Africa, Asia and South America for 25-years. 


The process utilises plant breeding techniques that deliberately increase micronutrient levels in food crops to enhance the content of vitamins and minerals like zinc and iron to improve the health output of basic human diets in poverty-stricken countries… 


HarvestPlus estimates an estimated 20 million people are growing and eating biofortified crop varieties… and has a goal to reach 100 million by 2020 and one billion by 2030. Dr Bouis said 32 countries had been identified as target growth areas and if biofortified crops capture 20 to 25 per cent of the staple food-supplies in those locations, by 2030, “we will have reached one billion people.” 


He said there was talk of biofortified crop varieties potentially being released in 55 countries, in a couple of years, through the added use of transgenic or GM crops, like Golden Rice [with increased] vitamin A content. But political intervention is restricting investment and creating absurd regulations around those crop varieties… “Because of the politics, they put up all of these ridiculous regulations that you can’t get past and so you don’t release (new varieties),” he said… 


But Dr Bouis praised a recent move by more than 100 Nobel Laureates to sign a letter urging global governments to look beyond the fear-based political posturing of groups like Greenpeace that campaign against GM[O]s… The letter asked global leaders to acknowledge “authoritative” scientific evidence on the efficacy of plant biotechnology and re-examine the proven experiences of consumers and farmers over time… 


“Greenpeace has spearheaded opposition to Golden Rice, which has the potential to reduce or eliminate much of the death and disease caused by a vitamin A deficiency, which has the greatest impact on the poorest people”… the letter said. Dr Bouis said Golden Rice wasn’t being used under the HarvestPlus program but it was well-advanced in terms of improving the potential for vitamin A uptake in poor countries… the Nobel Prize winners’ initiative was “exactly the kind of proactive leadership that people need” to communicate effectively with the general public and explain why biotech crops are not dangerous and have “tremendous potential to do good”… 


Dr Bouis said, compared to giving poor people vitamin pills to overcome nutritional deficiencies in their diets, biofortification was more cost-effective and sustainable long-term option… Dr Bouis said 500 million pills were given out each year which was a very cost effective investment but the problem with that program was its recurring costs. He said 500 million pills per year could be distributed over a decade for a total spend of $5 billion but at the end of that period “you’re still starting over again”. 


Dr Bouis said the “beauty” of biofortification and agricultural research was being able to invest at a central location, to develop a new product like orange maize; a biofortified crop rich in vitamin A and used in African countries. He said biofortified plant varieties can then be made available to other countries that can test locally and implement it in their food systems “and your recurring costs disappear”. 


“Because farmers are growing maize… you don’t spend anywhere near $5b in developing it and getting it out and you have a sustainable solution,” he said. “I’m not saying biofortification makes vitamin capsules obsolete but it’s much more cost effective, it’s another tool and in some cases you will be able to reduce your vitamin A capsule programs and you’ll be able to save a lot of money. That’s why we’re doing biofortification; because it’s so cost effective”… 


Poor people eat many food staples to prevent them from going hungry but they can’t afford to buy vegetables, fruits, lentils and animal and fish products to provide mineral and vitamin content, in their normal diets, he said. But Dr Bouis said in countries like Bangladesh, a high-zinc rice variety was released in 2013 with improved health benefits and higher yield potential for local farmers, which is now driving its adoption. “Over time we hope we can capture a very high percentage of the total rice supply in Bangladesh,” he said. “It’s like putting fluoride in the water system. Every time you buy a rice and every time you eat a rice, once you’ve reached this kind of saturation, everything will be higher in zinc”… 


http://www.farmweekly.com.au/news/agriculture/general/politics/biofortifications-altruistic-global-goal/2753548.aspx?storypage=0


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Nutrition, agriculture and innovation: The road ahead - Devex (2016) 

Nutrition, agriculture and innovation: The road ahead - Devex (2016)  | Food Policy | Scoop.it
The World Food Prize had been awarded to four leaders in the biofortification movement… Hundreds of research and implementing partners… made this success possible by working together to reach millions of people in farming families in developing countries. Biofortification is the process of naturally enriching staple foods such as rice, wheat and corn with vitamins and minerals, which benefits low-income subsistence farmers who rely on these inexpensive but not very nutritious staple foods for much of their families’ diet. 

Micronutrient deficiencies undermine the health of 2 billion – yes, billion – people worldwide and are responsible for almost half of all preventable maternal and child deaths each year. Ideally, everyone would have equal access to diverse, nourishing foods such as fruits, vegetables and protein. Other important nutritional interventions include micronutrient supplements… and commercially fortified food. Unfortunately, these lifesaving tools still remain out of reach for millions of vulnerable children and women. Biofortification… can address this gap. 

This simple idea – uniting nutrition and agriculture – seemed too good to be true when it was proposed about 25 years ago. Skeptics worried that it simply would not be feasible, and that farmers and consumers would be hesitant to accept these new crops, especially the vitamin A-rich foods whose color turns yellow or orange from extra beta carotene… Today, more than 15 million people are now growing and eating these healthier crops. More than 100 varieties of 12 micronutrient-enriched crops are available in 30 countries, and are being tested in an additional 25 countries. 

Peer-reviewed clinical trial data demonstrate that high-iron pearl millet reverses iron deficiency, and vitamin A sweet potato dramatically reduces the incidence and duration of diarrhea in young children. Ministers of health, agriculture and education around the world are clamoring for more varieties, and the World Bank is funding an increasing number of biofortification projects. Most importantly, farmers themselves, many of them mothers who care deeply about their children’s well-being, are eagerly adopting these new varieties… 

Biofortification also contributes to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly those related to ensuring access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food for the poor and people in vulnerable situations and reducing maternal mortality and preventable deaths of young children. It’s much too soon to rest on our laurels, however. Our ambitious goal is to reach 1 billion people by 2030 – which is still only half of the 2 billion who suffer from micronutrient malnutrition. To get there, we and our partners will need even greater engagement by governments, researchers, private sector actors, civil society organizations farmers, and families. 

Several countries have led the way by including biofortification in their national agriculture, health, nutrition, and education strategies and budgets. Biofortified foods must also be integrated into school feeding programs and ante- and post-natal counseling. National crop breeding programs are increasingly including biofortified varieties in their ongoing efforts to improve the seeds made available to farmers already struggling with challenges such as climate change, diseases, and pests. 

Regional seed companies and food processors are also beginning to include biofortified planting material and food into their portfolios. Implementing partners such as World Vision are already scaling up biofortification in their agriculture and nutrition projects, and new partners are increasingly getting involved. These development practitioners are crucial to accelerating access by sharing information about nutrition, training lead farmers and mothers, holding farmer field days, and generating evidence and lessons learned that can be shared globally… 


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Information, branding, certification, and consumer willingness to pay for high-iron pearl millet: Evidence from experimental auctions in Maharashtra, India - Banerji &al (2016) - Food Pol

Information, branding, certification, and consumer willingness to pay for high-iron pearl millet: Evidence from experimental auctions in Maharashtra, India - Banerji &al (2016) - Food Pol | Food Policy | Scoop.it
We... estimate consumer demand for biofortified high-iron pearl millet (HIPM) in Maharashtra, India. Unlike biofortification with provitamin A, biofortification with minerals, such as iron and zinc, does not change the color or the appearance of the biofortified crop. 

Therefore, we test the impact of both nutrition information, and branding and certification, as well as the nature of the brand and of the certifying authority (state level versus international), on consumer demand for HIPM... 

Even in the absence of nutrition information, consumers assign a small but significant premium to the HIPM variety relative to the local variety. This is consistent with consumers’ more favorable rating of the sensory characteristics of the high-iron variety. 

Nutrition information on the health benefits of HIPM increases this premium substantially, and regression analysis reveals that consumers prefer international branding and international certification authority to their state-level counterparts.


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Breaking Down Barriers: Unlocking Africa’s Potential through Vigorous Competition Policy - World Bank (2016) 

Breaking Down Barriers: Unlocking Africa’s Potential through Vigorous Competition Policy - World Bank (2016)  | Food Policy | Scoop.it

Reducing the price of food staples by 10% could lift nearly half a million people out of poverty in Kenya, South Africa and Zambia alone… Cartels, anticompetitive business practices, and rules that shield markets from competition are significant issues that increase prices for a variety of products. Competition authorities have made progress in recent years, but many challenges remain. A starting point is to remove barriers to competition in critical sectors, such as… fertilizers… 


African countries have much to gain by encouraging open and competitive markets, particularly as a means to spur sustainable economic growth and alleviate poverty. Yet in reality, many markets have low levels of competition. More than 70% of African countries rank in the bottom half of countries globally on the perceived intensity of local competition and on the existence of fundamentals for market-based competition. Monopolies, duopolies, and oligopolies are relatively prevalent compared to other regions… 


This lack of competition has drastic costs. Retail prices for 10 key consumer goods – white rice, white flour, butter and milk among them – are at least 24% higher in African cities than in other main cities around the world. While these higher prices affect all consumers, the poor are hit the hardest… Reducing the prices of food staples by just 10%, by tackling cartels and improving regulations that limit competition in food markets could lift 500,000 people in Kenya, South Africa, and Zambia out of poverty and save consumers more than $700 million a year. 


Cartels – agreements among competitors to fix prices, limit production or rig bids – are a serious cause of low competition levels in African countries and have been found to affect products in a variety of sectors, including fertilizers, food… Evidence reveals that consumers pay 49 percent more on average when firms enter into these agreements. “There have been a notable number of countries adopting competition laws in Africa, and this bodes well for growth and development. However, while the benefits of competition are already clearly observable in Africa, there is still considerable effort required to ensure effective implementation of competition laws and policies across the continent”… 


“In the past few years, several countries have stepped up their enforcement capacity and implementation of competition laws. For example, Egypt, Kenya, South Africa and Zambia have taken recent actions to block uncompetitive agreements in a variety of sectors… Looking to the future, there is a need to prioritize resources and use the powers and tools available to competition authorities more effectively in order to continue raising the relevance of competition policy within the broader development agenda.” 


Competition authorities can take additional steps to strengthen their ability to detect and deter cartels. Setting fines and penalties so that they are higher than the expected profits may help to deter anticompetitive behavior… on average, fines are only 9% of a companies’ excess profits. This means cartel members lack incentives to change practices as profits often far outweigh fines. Competition authorities can also continue to use more effectively tools for detecting cartels and investigating them. Leniency programs – which allow a cartel member to confess, cooperate with an investigation, and provide evidence in exchange for immunity or reduced penalties – and utilizing whistleblowers, informants, and raids, are all effective strategies that are under-utilized in African countries. 


One strategy for promoting competition is to focus on key sectors that are especially important to the growth of African economies… Three sectors – cement, fertilizer, and telecommunications… directly affect the competitiveness of African producers but lack a level playing field… 


- The fertilizer sector is crucial for agricultural production. 

- Only 28% of African countries have the ability to produce their own fertilizers, the rest must import. 

- Global export cartels increase the prices of potassium fertilizers in Sub-Saharan Africa by 29%. - In 58% of the countries studied… one supplier controls over half the market. 

- Removal of regulatory restrictions that inhibit entry, competitive public procurement of fertilizer, and market intelligence to detect anticompetitive practices will allow African farmers to benefit from competition. 


Regional cooperation is another way authorities can boost competition. Supply chains and business arrangements often cross borders, so the greater reach of regional organizations could help them address issues that go beyond the powers of national authorities. “There is scope for national and regional competition authorities to increase their impact by taking a regional perspective. This report brings home the importance of strong cooperation between agencies involved in implementing competition policy… We hope this analysis will raise awareness of the achievements made in Africa, stimulate debate on how to address the remaining challenges, and reinforce the case for strengthening competition policy across the region.” 


http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2016/07/27/africa-competition


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Economic Recovery Needed To Enhance Food Security – Sundaram (2016) – IPS

Economic Recovery Needed To Enhance Food Security – Sundaram (2016) – IPS | Food Policy | Scoop.it
Food prices rose sharply from the middle of the last decade, but have been declining since 2012, and especially since last year, triggering concerns of declining investments by farmers. Earlier predictions of permanently high food prices have thus become less credible… Prices had become increasingly volatile… Some food price volatility had its origins in climate change-related extreme weather events in key exporting countries. ‘Financialization’, including linking commodity derivatives with other financial asset markets, also worsened price volatility… 

With three food price spikes over five years, food insecurity was widely seen as a major challenge… Official development assistance for agriculture has fallen for decades despite the expressed desire by many developing countries to raise such investments. Meanwhile, rich countries have continued to subsidize and protect their farmers, undermining food production in developing countries, and transforming Africa from a net food exporter in the 1980s into a net food importer in the new century. 

Meanwhile, economic recovery efforts are needed… A global counter-cyclical recovery strategy in response to the crisis should contain three main elements. First, stimulus packages in both developed and developing countries to catalyze and ‘green’ national economies. Second, international policy coordination to ensure that developed countries’ stimulus packages not only ensure recovery in the North but also have strong developmental impacts on developing countries… Third, greater financial support to developing countries for their sustainable development efforts, not only aid but also to more effectively mobilize domestic economic resources. 

We need more investments that will help put the world on a more sustainable path… is still urgent to prioritize economic recovery measures, but also other needed initiatives. Preferably, recovery strategies should help lay the foundations for sustainable development. Given the large unmet needs for infrastructure, more appropriate investments can contribute to sustainable growth. Such investments should improve the lot of poor and vulnerable groups and regions… investments should lead to… growth that is both ecologically sustainable and socially inclusive. 

Enhancing food security and agricultural productivity should be an important feature of stimulus packages in developing countries dependent on agriculture. Re-invigorating agricultural research, development and extension is typically key to this effort. The Green Revolution… increased crop yields and food production. However, the efforts for wheat, maize, and rice were not extended to other crops, such as other major indigenous food crops and those associated with arid land agriculture… 

Projects could improve water storage and drainage, and contribute to agricultural productivity or climate adaptation. For example, in many developing countries, simple storage dams, wells, and basic flood barriers/levees could be constructed, and existing drainage and canal networks rehabilitated. Public works programs could prioritize basic sanitation or regeneration of wetland ecosystems that serve as “filters” for watercourses… 

Many complementary interventions will be needed. Food security cannot be achieved without better social protection. This will be critical for the protection of billions of people in developing countries directly affected by high underemployment and unemployment, to reduce their vulnerability to poverty and undernutrition. But sustainable social protection requires major improvements in public finances. While more revenue generation requires greater national incomes, tax collection can also be greatly enhanced through improved international cooperation on tax and other related financial matters… 

Such an agenda requires not only bold new national developmental initiatives but also far better and more equitable international cooperation offered by a strong revival of the inclusive multilateral United Nations system.  


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